Recognizing the Brand That Never Sleeps

Author: Tim Berney
Posted: Dec 4, 2014

October 1989 wasn’t the best year to start a marketing firm considering the stock market was still trying to climb back to pre-Black Monday levels from 1987. The economy was tight, making marketing budgets tighter.


 But, I’ve always felt fortunate that (by dumb luck) from day one I felt that nothing was given to you in this business and great marketing strategy was the only way to success. So, I paid attention to hundreds of brands and tried to decipher what I thought their strategy was. And moreover how I might attempt to improve on it.

I remember pondering Subaru. The ugly step-child of Japanese imports, with an appeal to Americans in cold climates. Battling for market share with the rugged personality of American made Jeep.

I studied established and failing brands like Sears and K-Mart, and their lack of marketing focus compared to upstarts like Old Navy and Kohl’s who understood differentiating their brand.

I totally marveled at Domino’s dominance of pizza delivery, and Pizza Hut fighting back with new product after stuffed new product. What happens when they run out of different ways to present dough, sauce, cheese, and meats?

So, how can you really pick just one brand whose marketing stands above all others the last 25 years? Nike’s ads are always great. But, advertising is just one function of marketing. Putting those shoes on the greatest athlete in the world is good marketing.

Or how about convincing the masses that a low price motel with absolutely no frills or special services is really all you need because you’re just sleeping there and your eyes are closed when you sleep. But Motel 6 will leave the light on for you. They saved the dying motel industry with that positioning.

But, 1989 wasn’t just the year VI was founded. It was also the year that a certain law was passed allowing gaming in states other than Nevada. Craps, here comes the competition. But, Vegas never sleeps.

None of the great marketing examples above can compare to the bold marketing that is Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s not because of the ‘What happens in Vegas…’ position which makes people want to do stupid things an hour after they land in the desert (good marketing in and of itself Bugsy). It’s not that they somehow make a place called ‘Sin City’ acceptable to middle-aged, middle America. It’s not that they convinced the world that a cut-rate deal on a room, and more cut-rate prices on a few meals is a fair trade for a $1,500 loss at the blackjack table (of course, you did win $30 at the slot machines!). No. No, no, no, no, no, and no. The genius of Las Vegas marketing is that they have been able to expand their target past the weekend fun seeker. Past the convention goer (OK, you missed the convention part of the trip), past the Super Bowl /March Madness/World Series/Kentucky Derby excuse to go to Vegas, dude. No, that stuff is kids’ play. And Vegas aint for kids. Or is it?

That’s right! In the throes of a recession and increasing competition, Las Vegas, Nevada convinced you, Ward Cleaver, that you should…., NO- you need to bring your eleven year old daughter to The Strip. Because Vegas is family friendly. She only thinks she wants to go to Disney World. Ft. Lauderdale is like any other beach on the planet. You see one volcanic island in the Pacific, you’ve seen ‘em all. This, little darlin’ is Las Vegas! Where kids can ride a roller coaster that runs through a casino. Zipline from the top of a casino. See the Eiffel Tower……sitting on top of a casino. And oh so many more things that you swore you’d protect your kids from.

So, what was the result of telling Mr. and Mrs. Middle America with 2 kids that they’ve been missing out on an excessive amount of many family memories (aka kids in the room renting movies while ma and pa drink ‘free’ at the tables)? Nearly double the amount of kids in Vegas. To be specific, in 1991 persons under the age of 21 made up 6% of Las Vegas visitors. A decade later, their share was 11%. No the gambling age didn’t change. Nor the drinking age. What changed was the marketing. A repositioning of a brand that was once for your (adult) eyes only.

Yep- This is the best marketing job since Doan’s made pain pills that somehow know to go straight to your back! Yes, you city of excesses have the most excessive amount of marketing talent that I have seen in my career. You hooked dad (wasn’t hard), you convinced mom (good marketing), you even got Granny (a nickel at a time). But the goal is more heads in beds, and you accepted that challenge. And by golly you won. Hey, this ‘new demographic’ will be old enough to gamble in just 10 short years.

The best marketing in the last 25 years helped Vegas survive economic downturn, increased competition, and fogged the moral compass just enough to make it OK to take junior to get his own lousy t-shirt. Genius.

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